Independence Day, followed by Thanksgiving, are my two favorite holidays. I’ve no stomach to celebrate either this year. But since we could use a new open thread, here you go.
“This meeting can do nothing more to save this country.”
Independence Day, followed by Thanksgiving, are my two favorite holidays. I’ve no stomach to celebrate either this year. But since we could use a new open thread, here you go.
“This meeting can do nothing more to save this country.”
Over the past several weeks, a number of people have noticed that the President’s campaign, as well as the President, seem to be sending some very unique messages using some very unique imagery. On 18 June, Media Matters caught the President tweeting out this alleged Antifa symbol:
This is not an Antifa symbol. It is the symbol the NAZIs made political prisoners wear. Here’s the symbology classification system as explained by the US Holocaust Museum Encyclopedia Holocaust:
Here’s the new America First T-Shirt being offered for sale by the President’s campaign store:
Here’s a better screen grab of the logo:
And this is the partieadler, or (NAZI) party eagle and its description from the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) website:
The Nazi Eagle is a symbol developed originally by the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920s (also becoming a symbol of the German government after the Nazis took power), based loosely on traditional German coats of arms. Following World War II, the symbol was appropriated by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists worldwide, with many variations. The symbol originally featured an eagle clutching a swastika, but many variations replace the swastika with some other hate symbol, such as SS bolts or a Celtic Cross. Occasionally, extremists will leave the circle blank where the swastika normally would appear; this seems to be more common in countries where the swastika is prohibited.
It should be noted that eagles are a common symbol among nations worldwide, including the United States, and not every image of an eagle is derivative of the Nazi eagle. It is not uncommon, for example, for some Americans to mistake the Blue Eagle logo of the Roosevelt-era National Recovery Administration for a Nazi-derived symbol.
Here’s the National Recover Administration’s crest so you can see for yourself that it looks nothing like the parteiadler or the logo on the America First T-shirts.
But it isn’t just the imagery. The Trump Make America Great Committee purchased 88 Facebook ads that used the NAZI symbols for political prisoners in the screen grab at the top of the post. 88 is the code that neo-NAZIs and white supremacists use for Heil Hitler. Recently the President, in defending monuments and statues to Confederate military leaders and personnel, tweeted out this 14 word tweet, which included two words with capitalized “H”s right next to each other:
This is a battle to save the Heritage, History, and Greatness of our Country! #MAGA2020
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2020
The 14 words is the most popular white supremacist slogan and statement. From the ADL:
“14 Words” is a reference to the most popular white supremacist slogan in the world: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The slogan was coined by David Lane, a member of the white supremacist terrorist group known as The Order (Lane died in prison in 2007). The term reflects the primary white supremacist worldview in the late 20th and early 21st centuries: that unless immediate action is taken, the white race is doomed to extinction by an alleged “rising tide of color” purportedly controlled and manipulated by Jews.
Because of its widespread popularity, white supremacists reference this slogan constantly, in its full form as well as in abbreviated versions such as “14 Words”, “Fourteen Words,” or simply the number “14.”
A sober person would say that this is just a coincidence. That argument would have more validity if the President and his campaign and his administration did not have a history of using this type of symbolism. One of the President’s 2016 campaign ads, in July of 2016, was a picture of Secretary Clinton’s face and a Star of David (six pointed star/Jewish star) imposed over piles of cash. Which he tweeted! Another of his campaign’s final ads during the 2016 election included the faces of then Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Holocaust survivor, billionaire, philanthropist George Soros as exemplars of corruption.
The use of this imagery is not an accident. Without having to actually go looking for them, including the T-shirt the President’s campaign just made available for purchase, I was able to come up with a number of examples using clearly anti-Semitic imagery and language. But it goes beyond these campaign ads, merchandise, and tweets by the President. For instance, the initial number of children that HHS was reporting had been lost in the system after being separated at the border was 1,488. This amount of coincidence takes a lot of work!
The dog whistle is clearly passé. Why whisper when you can scream!
Apparently the Karens Malevolent Association, Palm Beach Local #12, had a meeting today!
Meanwhile, in Florida.. pic.twitter.com/HBviAlNPQi
— God’s wonderful breathing system back turner (@majorityfm) June 24, 2020
Oh my. Here’s the rest of the testimony of the first woman. She appears to be alluding to Pizzagate, among other far-right conspiracy theories. pic.twitter.com/J10IB3AXTY
— John Aravosis 🇺🇸🇬🇷🏳️🌈 (@aravosis) June 24, 2020
That’s a lot of concentrated crazy even for south Floriduh!!!!!
But what is Floriduh! Man up to while Floriduh! Women are doing their performative insanity? He’s getting indicted!
JUST IN: Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg has been indicted by federal prosecutors for stalking and the unlawful use of a means of identification of another person, the Department of Justice announced. https://t.co/sW3IqfkrXm
— FOX 35 Orlando (@fox35orlando) June 23, 2020
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg has been indicted by federal prosecutors for stalking, and for the unlawful use of a means of identification of another person, the U.S. Department of Justice says.
United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced the charges on Tuesday. The indictment stated that Greenberg attempted to cause substantial emotional distress to a political opponent who worked at a Florida school. He had letters sent to the school where the employee worked. These claimed to be from an anonymous student of the school. The letter claimed that the school employee had engaged in sexual misconduct with a student.
However, the indictment stated that Greenberg knew this was false.
In addition, Greenberg set up a Facebook account that claimed to belong to a concerned teacher at the school, the indictment said. He made postings with that account falsely claiming that a school employee had engaged in sexual misconduct with a student.
The indictment also said that Greenberg had an imposter Twitter account made of his opponent, where he claimed that he was a segregationist and in favor of white supremacy.
More at the link!
Was this at all predictable? Why yes, yes it was! But how you ask? Allow me to introduce People’s exhibits A and B!
Yes, let’s give the creepy stalker guy guns, what could possibly go wrong?
I’m pretty sure that has to be Congressman Gaetz’s adopted daughter, Nestorina, who no one knew about…
With friends like Gaetz and Stone, Greenberg is going to fit right in in prison!
During Vice President Biden’s interview by Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, Noah asked him what he thought would happen if the President refused to leave office if VP Biden is elected president in November. Vice President Biden ultimately replied that the military “would escort him from the White House with great dispatch”. You can watch the question and the answer beginning with Noah’s question at 1:41 of the video within the tweet below.
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) June 11, 2020
As you can see and hear for yourself, VP Biden contextualized his answer within all the push back the President has received over the past two weeks from retired general officers (GOs) and flag officers (FOs), as well as the statements issued by each of the currently serving Service chiefs, the currently serving Senior Enlisted Officers for each Service, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also referenced the President’s standing with US military personnel in terms of their support.
While I appreciate Vice President Biden’s recognition that the President is setting the conditions to either not concede if he loses, to contest the election’s outcome if he doesn’t like it, or both, the simple reality is that the US military is NOT GOING TO REMOVE THE CURRENT PRESIDENT IF HE REFUSES TO CEDE POWER SHOULD VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN BE ELECTED TO REPLACE HIM!!!!!! And, perhaps, just as importantly, you DON’T WANT THEM TO DO SO!!!!!! The unprecedented popular criticism of a sitting president by retired senior military leaders may be boosting people’s spirits, but I can guarantee that those gentlemen, and so far they’ve all been men as I’ve not seen or heard one retired female general or admiral call the president out publicly, these retired senior military leaders don’t have the power or the authority to call out the troops to ensure a peaceful transition. The currently serving ones, no matter how much their retired colleagues’ and peers’ public statements have stiffened their resolve to push back against the President and his senior political appointees to ensure that the US military stays as much out of US politics as possible, are not going to operationally insert US military personnel into American politics by physically removing the President if he refuses to cede power to VP Biden should VP Biden defeat him in November.
I guarantee that the Service Chiefs, who don’t actually have any forces under their direct command with the exception of their staffs and the Service academies and senior leader colleges and schools, are going to do everything in their power to ensure that US Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines stay at their posts, at their home stations and in garrison. Civil-Military (CIV-MIL) relations, specifically that there is civilian control over the military through the elected president and his Senate confirmed senior political appointees, as well as through oversight conducted by elected members of both chambers of Congress, is something we work very, very hard to inculcate within US military personnel.
I spend a lot of time dealing with general officers and one specific admiral who used to be my boss/frontline supervisor. Many are retired, some are still serving. A few of the retirees have made public statements pushing back on the President. The most recent caught me unawares as I didn’t even know he had a Twitter account.
— Don Campbell (@tanksrme16) June 10, 2020
I have spent a very large amount of time over the past thirteen years advising general officers, consulting for and with them, working for them, and teaching several senior colonels and captains that eventually went on to earn flag rank. And, as I’ve indicated before in comments, I have largely been very lucky as I’ve been fortunate to get to work with some of the very best who were excellent senior leaders and officers, but also wonderful people. And I know that isn’t always the case or, perhaps, even the norm. But one thing I’ve learned, one thing I know for certain, is that what we’ve been observing over the past several years as a few retired senior military leaders openly pushing back and criticizing the President and his senior appointees has now given way to well over a dozen, is unprecedented. We are in a unique moment. As we’ve discussed here ad nauseam since November 2016, the current president and his administration are something unique in the history of the US. My view of the public commentary and pushback by retired senior military leaders is that it too is unique. It is the result of this unique moment. At the same time it is not a signal that the US military is going to somehow take on the role of domestic protector of the political outcome aspects of American self government via our democratic-republic. And this is a good thing. We want a military, just like we want a Department of State and Department of Justice and FBI and other Federal law enforcement and the Intelligence Community and the rest of the Federal government to report to, take lawful orders from, and submit to oversight from the duly elected officials of the United States regardless of what party those officials are from.
I am very glad that Vice President Biden seems to be taking the signals that the President, his senior advisors and surrogates, his supporters, his base, and the conservative news, social, and digital media ecosystem is sending that seek to delegitimize the 2020 elections at all levels before a single general election ballot has even been cast. And I’m taking VP Biden’s statements on this as a sign that his campaign is also taking it seriously. I know a number of outside groups are also doing so. Some of them involve strategies to get out the vote so the result is overwhelming and not close enough to be contested or hijacked. Others are developing legal strategies for how to respond as the five months between now and the election and the seven months until the next inauguration tick away. My professional estimate as a subject matter expert in low intensity warfare is, should things go really wrong in regard to the President and the Republican Party at all levels of government contesting the election, even before the election occurs, that get out the vote and legal strategies will be important, but insufficient. Others have made public their specific concerns. Perhaps the US Secret Service will politely, but firmly escort the President to Marine One for his last flight on what would normally be designated Air Force One, but because he would no longer be president would be identified as the 89th Airlift Wing’s Special Air Mission, but the military isn’t going to suddenly emerge to ensure that a newly inaugurated President Biden can move into the White House. And while that may be frustrating for people to read or hear, they should be glad that it won’t happen because it would make a constitutional crisis that much worse.
I know many here will roll their eyes because in the opinion of many, myself included, he has waited far, far too long to break his silence, but Secretary Mattis has finally issued a public statement regarding President Trump to The Atlantic. And he moved to contact decisively! (emphasis mine)
IN UNION THERE IS STRENGTH
I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.
We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.
James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.
Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.
We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.
Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
That Secretary Mattis chose to compare the President to the NAZIs, which I highlighted above, cannot be ignored or downplayed. Regardless of what anyone thinks of him, especially in light of his willingness to serve as the President’s first Secretary of Defense or by keeping his thoughts to himself since resigning, Secretary Mattis is a highly educated, highly thoughtful, and very deliberate individual. His Marines called him the Warrior Monk to respectfully describe his austere, scholarly, and bookish lifestyle as a Marine bachelor. He preferred the call sign CHAOS – Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution. He despises being referred to as Mad Dog. Secretary Mattis is a sober, thoughtful, deliberative Marine and senior military leader. The choice to compare the President to the NAZIs was not made willy nilly, it was not a knee jerk turn of phrase. It was deliberate and in that deliberateness it is intended to signal to the current and retired senior military leaders, as well as to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of the US military and all the DOD and Service civilians that the President is a clear and present danger to the Republic, to freedom and liberty akin to the US’s greatest foreign foe of the 20th Century. It is also intended to signal that those who follow him are akin to the NAZIs themselves, that they are not interested in the ordered liberty the Founders and Framers attempted to establish through the Constitution and the creation of a self governing democratic-republic. And it presents Americans with a very stark choice: you can support the United States and the Constitution and the idea of a self governing democratic-republic, no matter how imperfect, or you can support the President. You cannot support both!
No worse enemy, indeed!
Last night on the Twitters, Cole asked:
While they are distracted by the peotests let’s rip down all the confederate monuments, change the street and scool names, snd change the names of military bases.
— John Cole (@Johngcole) June 2, 2020
Well have I got an announcement for you!!!!!
Last year I connected with LTC (ret) Troy Mosley who is the founder and president of Citizens Against Intolerance. I came across his op-ed, reprinted here, on why it is important to rename the 10 US Army bases that are currently named for Confederate generals and reached out with some information for him. This led to a couple of emails, then some phone calls, and since last fall I’ve been functioning as a senior advisor to Citizens Against Intolerance as he and several other volunteers got things up and running. Now that all of our paperwork is in order and our website is finalized and running, I’d like to invite everyone to check the group out. Our About page is here and says:
Citizens Against Intolerance LLC was established to mitigate or end all forms of discrimination in America. Intolerance which grows out of ignorance foments hatred and is destructive. America’s founding fathers set out to do something never before done in the world, create a society where one’s birth right did not determine their future. These lofty goals were expressed in America’s declaration of independence and codified in the Bill of Rights. This idea was so novel that even the early framers did not agree entirely to whom America’s great promise was intended. It is our belief that the framers were deliberately vague in expressing precisely who were the intended benefactors of America’s great promise. It is our contention that the framers left the heirs of America’s promise to be determined by future generations.
There is a gap between what is specified in America’s founding documents and what is experienced daily by America’s citizens. Women are not paid equal wages as men for the same work. Black Americans receive prison sentences 20% longer than white Americans for the same crime, even minority service members are several times more likely to be court-martialed in the US armed forces than white service members. Black women are 2-6 times more likely to die in child birth. The inequality in America is expressed in the educational achievement gap, the wealth gap, and there are even socio-economic determinants to health. Citizens Against Intolerance will work to forge relationships with like-minded organizations to establish public law and policy that eliminates or mitigates the effects of racism, sexism and homophobia in America and the world. To this end we are committed to:
To advocate for full inclusion that is just, verdant and equitable, and provide organized resistance to all forms of discrimination by advocating for public policy and laws that remove barriers which support systematic discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity as well as all other forms of discrimination.
To forge a society where all citizens believe their potential is unlimited by race, gender, or sexual orientation bias, where American institutions are replete with examples of the diversity and inclusion across all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations and identities.
Inclusion: The development and promulgation of best practices that promote the participation of diverse populations and the identification and removal of systemic barriers that prevent the participation of entire segments of the population. Love: The unconditioned admiration for humanity. Integrity: Doing what is right. Scholarship: This organization places a premium on the pursuit of knowledge, and the advancement of evidence-based technologies, tactics, techniques and procedures.
We are up on Twitter at: @CitizensAgains8. On Facebook (not my idea given how everyone knows my thoughts on Facebook) at: @DiversityandUnity. And we have an Instagram account to, but I can’t for the life of me find the link, so you’ll just have to trust me.
And, of course, we have a petition for you all to sign!
You all know what to do!
Not to pick on Mistermix, especially because everyone makes the same mistake, but this is the Stars & Bars, better known as the national flag of the Confederacy:
To be specific, this one is the fourth national flag of the Confederacy, which was flown from 10 DEC 1861 through to the end of the Confederacy. Earlier versions, revised each time more states seceded and joined the Confederacy, had 7, 9, and 11 stars in the blue canton.
There were two other national flags of the Confederacy. The second was known as the stainless banner and had the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia as the canton on a white field. The third, the blood stained banner, was simply the second national flag with a vertical red stripe running opposite the canton. The red vertical stripe was added because there were concerns that if the stainless banner was flown in the field, and the canton was not visible, then it would be mistaken for a flag of surrender. Irony abounds. These two flags are below.
(That isn’t actually a bunch of white space above, it really is how the white field of the flag appears on the page)
While there were a number of other unofficial Confederate national flags, what most people call the stars and bars is not. Yes it has stars on it and yes it has bars on it, or, more accurately, a blue saltire cross. In Project Lincoln’s video, the Confederate flag that opens, closes, and is the most predominant throughout is actually the second Confederate Naval jack, which is below.
You’ll notice the lighter blue of the saltire compared to the cantons of both the stainless and blood stained banners above, which are the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. Most manufacturers of these flags don’t pay too much attention to the actual color of the blue so it ranges from an even lighter blue than on the naval jack, to the blue above, to the dark blue of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which is below.
And while the square battle standard of the traitors serving with and under Lee does make a brief appearance in the ad, the average, and in many cases the above average, neo-Confederates and white supremacists who like to fly their preferred flag or hang it on the wall or adorn their trucks with stickers of it are too stupid to realize that they’re really demonstrating their enthusiasm for the Confederate navy. Which is kind of nice because they don’t get a lot of love. Regardless, most American racists are too stupid to know they are flying the wrong flag. Just let that sink in for a minute.
The real flag of the Confederacy is the Confederate flag of truce, which was actually a white dish towel with three pencil line thin vertical red stripes along it’s right edge. It was all the Confederates had with them that they could use as a white flag when Lee surrendered to LTG Grant.
We’ll leave the last word with W. T. Sherman!
A lot of people asking whether 2020 is like 1968, most of them saying that they weren’t there. I was there – not in the riots, but rather focused on my own life. A few years married, in a job at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory that was below my capabilities but learning a lot about reactors. Just moved into a new house. I was not very political, although the Vietnam War was part of every young person’s consciousness.
In 1968, 400 Americans were dying every week in Vietnam. In 2020, more than 1000 Americans are dying every day from COVID-19. In both cases, disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino people are among them. In both cases, the feeling of danger is palpable across the population.
More people are out of work now than in the Great Depression.
We are still at the beginning of the summer of 2020. The summer of 1968 played out over several months.
April 4: Martin Luther King assassinated
April 4 – 5: Riots, particularly in Detroit
June 6: Robert Kennedy assassinated
August 26 – 29: Democratic Convention and police riot
President Lyndon B. Johnson announced on March 31, 1968, that he would not run for another term as president. He recognized that his handling of the Vietnam War would make for a divisive convention and campaign. “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” His vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, became the presumptive candidate, challenged by Eugene McCarthy, who opposed the war. Humphrey was not able to separate himself adequately from Johnson’s handling of the war. Richard Nixon claimed he had a secret plan to end the war.
Donald Trump is a sick human being who is incapable of presidential duties. He has damaged the United States government and sowed division among the American people. His tweets during the riots have been incendiary. Republican elected officials back him unconditionally. The presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, is a compassionate person with long experience in governing. At this moment, opinion polls show Biden winning decisively in November.
Communications and Media
We have smartphones now. Countless photos and videos of provocateurs and police misconduct are circulating on Twitter. Demonstrators are able to communicate with each other better, as are the police. Many more sources of information, bad and good, are available now to the public. It is harder for the media to overwhelm with conventional wisdom, although Trump’s Twitter feed provides too much distraction. Smartphones also allow for greater surveillance. Influential people in the media seem to be recognizing the problems and are beginning to speak out. Other nations are inserting disinformation.
My sense is that more white protesters are involved this time around, but it’s hard to be sure. Otherwise, the protesters are similar. People who feel they’ve been betrayed, who feel endangered, who feel they have nothing to lose, who feel things must change. Provocateurs are at work, probably were in 1968, but the lack of smartphones allowed them more latitude. We need to understand much more about who has been in these demonstrations.
In both years, the police response too often is racist. The demonstrations a few weeks ago by armed white men were treated carefully. The police seem to be rioting, as they did in August 1968, during the current protests. More of their animus now seems directed toward reporters. Police are much more militarized today, both in training and equipment, as a result of the reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001. In a few places like Flint, Santa Cruz, Miami, Fargo, and Atlanta, the police have demonstrated sympathy with the demonstrators and avoided the worst violence. I don’t recall that from 1968.
By the time the 1968 Democratic Convention blew up, my overwhelming feeling was that we had lost the good things that the early sixties won. The early sixties were about opening opportunity and removing barriers, particularly for Black America, but also for women. The later sixties were about reactions to the war, both protests and the retreat to hippiedom and drugs. Everyone lost in the summer of 1968.
I feel more optimistic today, even with the damage of the past few days. We are on the way to removing a disastrous president, and there seems to be increasing recognition that many other things need to be righted.
We have five months to the election, though. There will be another wave in the pandemic. There will be more damaging actions, at home and abroad, from Trump and his allies. There will be more disinformation. White supremacists will continue their activities. There will be more protests.
It’s not possible to predict how things will turn out. My sense, although it coincides with my wishes and is therefore suspect, is that we will remove Trump and rebuild a better America.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner
I imagine that during Memorial Day 1918 and 1919, in the midst of the swine flu pandemic that emerged from the training barracks at Fort Riley and somehow got blamed on Spain, people tried to make sense of the day and what it was supposed to symbolize and commemorate while the US was at war abroad and Americans were dying at home of communicable disease. As I wrote last year, Memorial Day has sort of evolved into a strange observance in America’s civic life and civil culture:
Memorial Day has assumed a strange place within American civic culture. It has become the Federal holiday that signals the start of summer, while at the same time, because of the changes to how Americans respond and relate to the US military, has become a de facto second Veteran’s Day. And, of course, for those that have served, or those related to them, or those who have known them as more than passing acquaintances, and those who have some civic self awareness, the holiday retains its original purpose: to commemorate America’s war dead.
All of this together is a strange civic cultural mashup.
Memorial Day 2020, and the long holiday weekend that comes with it, is even stranger than the holiday usually is. This year it has become part of the partisan, tribal attitudes and actions surrounding how Americans should be responding to SARS-CoV2 and COVID-19. We’ll know in two to three weeks just how bad the damage from this weekend’s activities is. How many who would not have become infected have become infected and how many who would not have died will have died. Further ripping at and tattering our civic culture and further poisoning the life blood of the Republic.
Eventually Americans will figure out how to recognize, commemorate, and collectively mourn those who have died as a result of COVID-19. Tens of thousands of whom would likely still be alive if the President, his senior advisors and staff, his surrogates, Senator McConnell and his Republican majority in the Senate, and Fox News, OANN, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart, and the rest of conservative news, social, and digital media didn’t approach the pandemic, and the challenges it presents to the US, as some sort of partisan game to be won.
It seems strange to focus on commemorating America’s war dead when we are approaching 100,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and significant portions of the US seem to think that reality is somewhere between fake news and not their problem. America’s soul has been sick for a long time. Some of this goes back to the original sins of America’s founding. Some of the poison has been more recently injected. But the strange reality of Memorial Day 2020 makes America’s civic soul sickness brutally clear.
Rest well Michael, Nicole, Paula, Gregg, and Terry.
The President, Republican members of the House and the Senate, Fox News personalities and talking heads, the President’s surrogates on other broadcast and cable news shows, the conservative social, digital, and news media, and the President’s campaign officials and surrogates have been calling for the release of the email that former Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor (AP-NSA) Susan Rice sent to herself in January 2017 as a memorialization of the meeting about what the FBI’s counterintelligence officials had been discovering about LTG (ret) Flynn and his activities before he joined the President’s 2016 campaign, during the campaign, and during the transition.
This was purposefully conflated with unmasking by Congressman Nunes as part of his agitprop that President Obama and his senior officials spied on the President’s campaign, including seeking to unmask LTG (ret) Flynn in signals intelligence collected on foreign targets. When the Trump administration declassified and released Rice’s email to herself, they only declassified and released part of it. Which, of course, led to screaming and yelling about coverups and conspiracies. Dr. Rice has long requested they declassify the whole email, as well as the transcripts of LTG (ret) Flynn’s calls with Ambassador Kislyak, as well as other Russian officials, and officials from other countries. Earlier today the Trump administration declassified and released the remainder of Dr. Rice’s email and no surprises at all, there’s nothing untoward at all in it.
As can be clearly seen from reading the email, no one involved did anything untoward, unethical, and/or illegal. As was the case with the unmasking conspiracy theory, there is no there there.
And while Republican elected officials* and their surrogates are trying to spin this as evidence of illegality, it isn’t. And the most amusing part of today is that Senator Graham hung his tuchas way, way, way, way out over the edge this morning expecting to turn this into a scandal that he could weaponize on behalf of the President’s, as well as his own, reelection chances.
This could backfire on Graham-Trump.
Graham letter to Grenell, Barr asks for new list of unmasking requests that revealed Trump campaign/transition associates "and the reason given for any such request."
Likely to show national security threats involving those US persons. pic.twitter.com/h2nzo0GQco
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) May 19, 2020
To quickly summarize:
When SARS-CoV2 and COVID-19 began to sweep across the globe, and became the focus in news coverage and reporting, the Black PSYOP that the President, his campaign, his elected Republican surrogates in the House and Senate, his other surrogates, and Fox News and the rest of the conservative and right wing news, digital, and social media had been pushing against Vice President Biden to excuse and justify the actions that the President was impeached for got shelved for a while. At least in terms of an attempt to promote it day to day. But now that the President has declared victory against SARS-CoV2 and COVID-19 in an attempt to reopen the US it has been reinvigorated in an attempt to change the subject.
Since Mother’s Day on Sunday, the President has been tweeting and shouting about something he calls Obamagate. This isn’t actually anything new. Back in 2017, in an attempt to divert attention from him, his campaign, and a number of his senior campaign staff and political appointees involvement with or connections to Russia, the President and his surrogates argued that President Obama had ordered the FBI to spy on his campaign. This included wildly inaccurate accusations, because the people making them didn’t understand what they were talking about or were acting as if they did, that the Obama administration spying went beyond having the FBI wiretap the campaign headquarters in Trump Tower. Specifically that Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor (APNSA) Susan Rice asked the National Security Agency (NSA) to unmask the names of Trump campaign and transition officials as part of President Obama’s and his co-conspirators nefarious plot to prevent the President from being elected. These accusations are back, but they still make no factual sense.
Acting Director of National Intelligence and Ambassador to Germany (previously a noted Internet troll and shitposter) Richard Grenell declassified and released three pages of unmasking requests made by Obama administration senior personnel between 30 NOV 2016 and 12 JAN 2017.
Despite the breathless reporting by tweet that “SCOOP @CBSNews obtains @RichardGrenell notification to congress declassified “unmasking list” Flynn between late 2016 and January 2017 – Read 3 pages provided by NSA here”, you’ll notice the following statement at the top of the first document Grenell declassified (emphasis mine):
Each individual was an authorized recipient of the original report and the unmasking was approved through NSA’s standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request.
In this case 16 authorized individuals requested unmaskings for REDACTED # of different NSA intelligence reports for select identified principles. While the principles are identified below, we cannot confirm they saw the unmasked information.
In short: everything was done in accordance with the law and regulations within normal channels.
But it goes beyond this, because the people requesting the unmasking, from APNSA Susan Rice to Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power to VP Biden had NO WAY TO KNOW WHO THE UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN OR AMERICANS WHOSE NAMES WERE REDACTED IN THE INTELLIGENCE REPORTS THEY WERE READING ABOUT CONTACTS WITH RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL, INCLUDING AMBASSADOR KISLYAK WHO WAS RUSSIA’S PRIMARY INTELLIGENCE HANDLER IN DC AS WELL AS RUSSIA’s AMBASSADOR TO THE UN AND OFFICIALS OF OTHER GOVERNMENTS, WHEN THEY MADE THE UNMASKING REQUESTS! WHICH IS WHY THEY MADE THE REQUESTS BECAUSE WITHOUT KNOWING WHO WAS TALKING TO KISLYAK, OTHER RUSSIAN OFFICIALS, AND OFFICIALS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW WHETHER WHAT HAD BEEN COLLECTED ON THE COMMUNICATIONS – THE TRANSCRIPTS OF THE COMMUNICATIONS – REALLY POSED POTENTIAL THREATS TO THE UNITED STATES THAT AMERICANS WERE INVOLVED IN!!!! It was NOT UNTIL any of these Obama administration officials got the unmasking reports from the National Security Agency that they would have known that LTG (ret) Flynn was the unidentified American citizen speaking with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, or any other official of a foreign government, Russian or otherwise, because that information was redacted in the original reports they were being briefed on. The whole point is to minimize the risk that any American citizen could have their privacy intruded upon by including their names if they are incidentally collected on because we are collecting on the foreign national that they are either speaking with or who mentions them in communication with a third party.
This reality, however, is not the point of what Grenell has done. Grenell’s objective is to use the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Republican majority US Senate, as well as the President’s twitter feed, Fox News, other presidential surrogates, and other news networks to launder the story that Vice President Biden was involved in the plot to both prevent the President’s election and then to destroy his presidency. See!!!! His name is right there on the last line of page 3! Since the declassification of this information by Grenell, Senators Grassley and Johnson have publicly released the documentation and proceeded to act like they do not know and understand how unmasking works. They have been joined by Senator Paul who held a press conference about it this afternoon heavy on innuendo and accusation and very short on actual facts. And AG Barr has indicated that US Attorney John Durham will now include these unmasking requests in his review of the investigations into the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia.
What these gentlemen are obfuscating, or, perhaps, are really too ignorant and uninformed to understand, is that when these 16 officials, including VP Biden made these requests THEY DID NOT KNOW WHO “US INDIVIDUAL 1” was in the intelligence, which is why they asked for the unmasking. Simply, they had no way to know if it was LTG (ret) Flynn, Jared Kushner, Senator Grassley, Senator Johnson, any of the five other Republican senators and one Republican representative who spent Independence Day 2018 visiting Putin in Moscow, Senator Paul who hand carried a communique from the President to Putin in August 2018 (and don’t get me started how far outside of normal and usual that was!!!), your great aunt Petunia, or the ever loving blue eyed Thing who was talking to officials of foreign governments, Russian or otherwise. All they knew is that a US citizen was in contact with senior officials of foreign governments, including the Russian ambassadors to the US and to the UN, and the discussions were about how Russia should respond to recent US actions against Russia, how Russia should vote in an upcoming UN Security Council vote the US had called about Israel, as well as other matters that have yet to be revealed and reported on*., but that based on the dates in the materials Grenell released, were collected and reported by the National Security Agency in late November and early December 2016, which was well before Flynn’s calls with Ambassador Kislyak and Russia’s ambassador to the UN. The US citizen in all of those calls was LTG (ret) Flynn. And then there were the reports that indicated an American citizen was discussing being paid to organize and facilitate the kidnapping legal US resident Fethullah Gulen and illegally extraditing and rendering him back to Turkey so that Erdogan could execute him. That was also LTG (ret) Flynn.
The objective here is the same objective that it has always been since I first started writing about, delineating, and explaining the Black PSYOP the President and his surrogates are undertaking back in October 2019:
And this is why Acting DNI Grenell declassified these unmasking requests, gave them to AG Barr, and then released them to Senators Grassley, Johnson, and Paul. To launder this information – information that clearly demonstrates that nothing illegal, untoward, or even unusual was done by anyone in the Obama administration through the DOJ and the US Senate – to both dirty up VP Biden to damage his campaign and to facilitate the other parts of the Black PSYOP ultimately leading to the lifting of US sanctions against Russia and normalization of US relations with Russia. Which the President once again discussed with Putin last week in a phone call about “the hoax”.
In May 2020, the President, AG Barr, Acting DNI Grenell, senior administration officials like Kellyanne Conway, a number of Republican senators, members of the Trump campaign, other surrogates for the President and his campaign, and a number of Fox News personalities are all actively promoting a Russian influence operation against the US targeting Americans to effect US politics and the outcome of the 2020 election. Someone should really be looking into this…
Update at 12:30 PM EDT
I’ve made some minor edits for clarity and added some links as in text citations. I also want to direct everyone to this twitter thread from Cheryl that she sent me late last night, which is applicable to the section with the *.
— Cheryl Rofer (@CherylRofer) May 13, 2020
This probably the first, last and only thing I’ll have to say about the Tara Reade issue, largely because I like to let a thing play out, so I can work with all the facts.
The “Me Too” movement was started by Tarana Burke in 2006, to raise awareness not on sexual violence, but on it’s pervasiveness. Because of the nature of the sexual violence & harassment, despite it’s ubiquity, it feels unique. It’s happening to you, to your body, to your mind. And it traps you there. Yet, sexual violence and harassment is pretty much something every woman has experience with and a lot of men as well. We live in a world where corrective rape is a thing, for god’s sake. When the #MeToo movement had a surge due to the hashtag’s use on social media and it’s connection to the Harvey Weinstein case, it really felt like a damn had finally burst and a lot of toxic silence as well as the enabling behavior of people towards powerful abusers was about to end.
Fast forward to 2020 and for a second time, a presidential candidate stands accused of sexual assault. Others have done a lot of work examining the accusation and it’s inconsistencies, so I won’t go into that. What I’m more concerned about is the idea that the accusation is enough to demand that Biden step down and more disconcerting, that investigating the accusation and finding inconsistencies is being a rape apologist. Me Too came about to shine a light on the prevalence of sexual assault & violence, particularly in being heard, believed and to have these crimes investigated so there could be consequences. At least, that’s what it means to me. Has it changed? And what does it mean if we should believe without question?
Interpersonal interactions are not easy to navigate. What one person says and feels will not be what another person says and feels. That’s partially why dealing with sexual harassment has been hard. As we evolve as a society, interactions that were ok by a dominant group to a sub group are now not ok. I’ve had my share of unwanted hugs from people who were huggers and could mandate that as an interaction. Frankly, I’ve always found touchy, handsy people irritating because there is no concept of “this is cool for me, but I should ask if it’s cool for you”. Is it easy to believe Joe touched in a way that Reade didn’t like? Sure. Does that equate to believing he’s a rapist? No. Does that mean her claims shouldn’t be investigated? No. Does it mean it’s impossible it happened? No. In fact, to know the truth of the matter, we must investigate. Whatever details she can provide, her full truth must be heard so we, the voters, can make a decision on whether or not this is credible and therefore, actionable. Yet, I am seeing that the search for the truth means you’re ignoring sexual assault.
Truth is the most important thing to base our decisions on. Truth must inform our actions. And even when those truths are inconvenient, we must listen to the truth. It’s disturbing to see that Biden has been condemned in multiple corners of the internet based on an allegation. It’s even more disturbing that inconsistencies and interference from some of the people who broke the story are being reframed as rape apology. Aren’t we on the left supposed to be focused on facts? If we abandon facts in favor of what we want to believe, then we’re in trouble. There’s also another troubling question. Why aren’t we supposed to ask questions and instead supposed to simply react? I do believe we’re witnessing right now the destruction of our country by an entire party that’s given up on facts, truth and only reacts wildly to everything. How would aping that benefit any effort to stop it?
When I started this, the Eva Murry accusations of Biden ogling her breasts when she as a 14 year-old attended the Gridiron Dinner in 2008 just hit Twitter through Sasha Pezenik of ABC. The accusations fell apart pretty fast, but it’s starting to show a pattern of weaponizing Me Too and the natural instinct to punish sexual predators in power. Today, Jacob Wohl & his partner Jack Burkeman have been exposed in an attempt to take down Dr. Fauci (I beg forgiveness for the Reason link), using emotional manipulation of the accuser, knowledge of her past as an assault victim and plain old cash payments. It’s incredibly typical to take good things, necessary things and twist them so they’re no longer good.
For far too many cases of sexual assault & harassment, corroboration with tangible evidence is not likely. Women have had to have the presence of mind to preserve things like torn clothes, nasty emails, voicemails – you get the gist. And that’s to be believed. Reade’s story seemed like she had corroboration – until we learned that they had been carefully helped to remember. Reade herself has shifted her story, multiple times. From just anger at unfair treatment, to now, a rape charge. But here’s the uncomfortable truth. It could be true. She could be a crook, a fraud, an attention hound and she could be telling the truth, for once. Due to the people who have latched onto it for entirely political purposes, we may never know. That’s the trap. Weaponizing Me Too for political purposes.
Any hope of justice is gone. The waters are too muddied. The people who want to believe Biden is guilty of rape – either because they can’t bear the idea that someone could lie about something as awful as sexual assault for attention or power or perfectly fine with spreading a lie for power – don’t want to hear anything except acquiescence. The people who don’t want to believe Biden is guilty of rape, well, kinda in the same boat. Vox’s latest article covers Laura McGann’s efforts for a year, to get the story from Tara – who maintained in her Intercept interview that no media would talk to her. Turns out a lot of media would & did talk to her. Many of the details McGann took from her initial statements changed. Many of the corroborating people said one thing at first, then updated statements later to match the new story. You can’t take down the powerful like this.
I feel the same knot in my stomach now as when I first heard of this. I’d like to know the truth. I mean, to a certain degree, I am always certain when I’m in the company of the powerful, I am in the company of people who have abused the weak. In small ways, in big ways, but in some ways. I guess I’ve seen a little too much to avoid having such a prejudice, but I acknowledge my prejudice and work to let people exist and judge only their actions. Biden will be fine, whether he wins or loses. I firmly believe if we win the Senate – supermajority style – and keep the House, the Presidency is less important. Disagree with me, I don’t care about that. What I care most about is that some on the left seem to have abandoned truth unless it services their purposes. The Biden story is just the latest iteration. It’s why there’s literally nothing the GOP does that isn’t met with “And Pelosi does nothing about it!”. If you push back on it, you’re a neolib moderate or rape apologist. If you say nothing, it’s tacit approval. We’ve adapted labels to stifle healthy discourse and intellectual approaches to tough issues. And I don’t know where this will lead. No one will bear a consequence for it. Too many factions who use internet bullying and courts of public opinion to control narratives. Controversy itself is a profitable brand. But we must make sure the Me Too movement survives and if possible, make it sacrosanct as a tool for gain. Women, men, non-binary people and all the marginalized groups who fit in those categories need it. It cannot be used like this. It’s too important. Everyone Me Too took down, went down under the weight of tons of evidence. Not flat belief. It took courage, it took persistence, it took years. That’s what the power of Me Too is. A demand to listen, support and investigate so every person is accountable. I’d love to believe this will be the last time anyone, at least on the lefty media side, does this. But I see the same people refusing to hear and I see the right wing media picking up the ball and running with it. All I know is, I’m furious and betrayed. I guess it might just be too much to ask that people stop reading content they want to believe and start reading content that presents enough facts to be believable. We’ll see what happens from here on out. I hope Ms. Reade finds peace, whether manipulated, or conwoman or both. It would be nice if many people familiar to us who immediately were sure Biden was credibly accused of assault said, “Hey, you know, I may have jumped the gun.” That won’t happen, of course. I hope we find the truth as much as we can even, as we focus on the goal of preventing more death and destruction in America. Because truth is worth protecting and fighting for.
The response to this is going to be very, very, very interesting!
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) May 6, 2020
WEDNESDAY, May 6 — After a hoard of armed and angry protesters swarmed Lansing last week, State Rep. Sarah Anthony brought some extra protection on her way to the State Capitol today.
At least three African Americans carrying large rifles escorted Anthony across Capitol Avenue earlier this morning so she could safely attend committee meetings without fear of intimidation. She said she didn’t necessarily request the help, but welcomed the extra security nonetheless.
“We were all just appalled by the lack of support and lack of security that I had, that other legislators had, and the fact that a lot of the demonstrators last week were adorning many racist, anti-Semitic signage. I think it just triggered a lot of folks, especially African Americans.”
Anthony and other lawmakers met this morning for an appropriations committee meeting. The scene was quiet. Anthony’s cadre of Second Amendment advocates had no trouble entering the building. They left to quietly stand on the front steps after Anthony made it inside an elevator.
“We want to change the narrative, first of all. We want people to understand that people of color can come out here with guns just the same as anybody else can,” said Michael Lynn Jr., a black Lansing firefighter and community activist who helped organize Anthony’s security detail.
Lynn watched a video that Anthony posted to Facebook as the protest formed last week. In it, she looked on from her office across the street as protestors slowly crowded the Capitol Lawn carrying Confederate flags, Nazi symbolism, nooses and other blatantly racist forms of imagery.
After some demonstrators eventually made it inside the building last week, one maskless and gun-toting protester got so close to Anthony’s face that she could smell his breath. And lawmakers shouldn’t be scared to come into work because of armed intimidation, she said.
“The majority of the protesters were white,” Anthony said. “I’m still not exactly sure on the connection between confederate flags and Nazi symbolism. They just had no connection to the stay-at-home orders. The fact they were carrying guns openly while we voted was unnerving.”
Anthony’s concerns are largely based on a “complete failure” of the Michigan State Police to maintain adequate security, she explained. She didn’t find out until this week that police could have escorted her to her car after she left the Capitol. No other security measures were mentioned.
“It was just unnerving to me as a woman and as a person,” Anthony said, noting that Capitol sergeants otherwise do an adequate job keeping lawmakers inside safe. “These community volunteers today won’t be needed all the time, but they wanted to have a presence today.”
Because Lynn is black, he suspects that cops would’ve been a bit more cautious — and perhaps violent — had his group been as boisterous as some of the crowds last week. He wanted to prove a point that Second Amendment rights aren’t limited on the basis of race.
“I could hear the fear in her voice during that protest,” Lynn explained. “It was the visual of her being that scared to go to work. It meant we had to do something. We came out here today to make sure we could provide some protection, even if it’s only just to make her feel better.”
Much more at the link.
The last time something like this was attempted was when the Black Panthers in California exploited a loophole in California state law and carried unloaded long guns with them everywhere. Including the state capitol to peaceably assemble to petition the state governance for redress of their grievances. While a bunch of nice, white, suburban school kids were visiting on a field trip to have lunch with the recently elected Governor Ronald Reagan. The California legislature pushed significant gun control legislation through and Governor Reagan signed it into law so fast that then 18 year old Wayne LaPierre’s head nearly spun off its axis!
As I wrote up top, it will be very, very, very interesting to see the response to Mr. Lynn’s actions in protecting Representative Anthony.
* Just a quick technical note regarding the tweet. The rifle carried by the guy next to state Representative Anthony is an AR style pistol with a stabilizing brace
carbine. So it is not only not a large rifle, but is, at best, an equivalent in size to a short barreled rifle.
Last night ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik reported by twitter thread on a new allegation against Vice President Biden. This reporting included the actual debunking of the claim, but Pezenik led with the bogus, fabricated allegation in the first couple of tweets before getting to the actual facts that conclusively demonstrated that the allegations were bogus in the subsequent tweets in the thread. Buried lede by twitter thread. Here’s the factual debunking tweets:
And here’s what she has pinned to the top of her page now:
Last night I posted a tweet about Vice President Biden. The allegations in my tweet had not been vetted or put through the ABC News standards process. I have since removed the tweet and I apologize for posting it.
— Sasha Pezenik (@SashaPezenik) May 3, 2020
Leaving aside ABC news vetting and standards for reporting, the real problem was that she had the debunking in her reporting, she just buried it beneath a false, but new, scandalous accusation of Vice President Biden’s being sexually inappropriate around and with women. The allegations were pushed to Pezenik by Christine O’Donnell, yes the “I am not a witch” Christine O’Donnell and it involved VP Biden and her niece. As Pezenik’s own reporting, cut and pasted above demonstrates, IT NEVER HAPPENED!!!! O’Donnell is tap dancing on her Facebook page over this as fast as she can, but whatever she thought she was going to achieve for herself by promoting this, she hasn’t.
What she has done, however, with a helpful assist of Pezenik, is get the allegation out there. And that’s all that really matters in the influence operation against Vice President Biden. Tulsi Gabbard’s former deputy policy coordinator amplified it, which brought it to the attention of Rich McHugh, who broke the story of Lynda LaCasse coming forward to provide corroboration for Tara Reade. Corroboration that now appears to have been coached by Reade.
McHugh is also pushing for the University of Delaware archive of Vice President Biden’s personal senatorial papers be opened and accessed immediately. Which, as I explained the other night, will not actually provide any clarity to any of these issues because any personnel documents would be filed with what is now the Senate personnel office because staffers in the House and the Senate officially work for the House or the Senate, not the representative or senator they work for day to day.
It was also, of course, picked up and flogged by Ryan Grim and others who have been pushing Tara Reade’s constantly evolving and adapting allegations.
Allegations that have always been impossible to verify and substantiate because there is no time, day, and/or date to her allegations, nor was there ever an actual complaint filed.
What is really going on here, and it is going to accelerate and grow until or unless reporters, editors, and producers get their acts together, is a two pronged influence operation. The first part is to get misinformation about Vice President Biden out into the mainstream media as quickly as possible, Because once it is reported on, no matter how quick the debunking is, the misinformation will be seized on and promoted, while the debunking will, at best, get pointed to by people like me. Pezenik had a legit news story to break last night, but it wasn’t the story she broke. She even had all the pieces to break the real news, which was “failed Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is attempting to smear Vice President Biden with a false allegation, which we were able to debunk with two phone calls. We are continuing our investigation in an attempt to learn why O’Donnell is doing this.” That framing would have allowed Pezenik and ABC News to break the story last night. But that isn’t what they did. O’Donnell and whoever put O’Donnell up to this knows that reporters have a sweet tooth for this type of thing. And they also know that if they can get the allegation out there through a legitimate news source, they will have laundered the misinformation successfully because almost no one they’re trying to message to is going to pay attention to the debunking.
The second part of this influence operation is agitprop. It is to further the President’s, the Republican Party’s, the conservative movement’s, Fox News’s, prominent Republicans’, conservatives’, and their surrogates’ argument that the real and legitimate news sources in the US are actually fake. That they cannot be trusted to report accurately or fairly. It is to create cognitive dissonance where the false and debunked in real time accusations against Vice President Biden are accepted as true, while at the same time the argument that the news media is lying to everyone and can’t be trusted because they botched the story by reporting factually wrong information is reinforced. It is a have your cake and eat it too influence operation. It is also, exactly, what Putin has been trying to do within Russia, within the US, and around the world for well over a decade. It is the attempt to create the dynamic where because nothing is true anything and everything is possible.
I’m not writing to get into the specifics of the allegations made against Vice President Biden by Tara Reade. I will stipulate up front that I was approached about them at the beginning of the month by someone who was very concerned because of what Ms. Reade had written about Russia and Vladimir Putin and asked my professional opinion as someone with experience working on influence operations. At that point I was what allegations? I quickly got up to speed and then took a deep dive based on what was being reported at the beginning of the month – the allegations Ms. Reade is making against VP Biden, the allegations that others have made against Ms. Reade, the interviews she was doing and the reporting about the allegations, the stuff she wrote about Russia – and what has been subsequently reported. Based on that review, I have significant questions about her veracity and her objectives, which I reported back to the person who had reached out to me. Basically, I think there are a lot more questions raised by the interviews she’s done, the corroborating witnesses that have come forward, and the motivations of the biggest names promoting this.
But let’s leave that aside. What I want to focus on is what appears to be the endgame, the actual objective, of bringing the allegations. It is clearly not to seek justice through a prosecution. It’s been almost 30 years and it is a she said/he said type of situation with no physical evidence, no solid accounting of day, date, and time, and no direct witnesses. Rather the endgame, the actual strategic objective, is something else. Specifically it is to manipulate the process, including the process of political and campaign reporters and reporting in the US, and that of the campaign itself to dirty up Vice President Biden with enough voters to drive down his positives, drive up his negatives, and ensure that the President is able to eke out another narrow reelection in the Electoral College despite the outcome of the popular vote.
The people pushing Ms. Reade’s allegation are all invested in seeing Vice President Biden losing. Either being forced out as the Democratic nominee to be replaced by their own preference (Senator Sanders) or losing to the President in the general election. And whether they are dead ender supporters of Senator Sanders or alt-right supporters of the President, they all have their own reasons that don’t always align, but their objective here do overlap. One of the key elements of what they are doing is manipulating process in order to purposefully misinform people about the actual process.
Shortly after Ms. Reade made her allegations, the Senate personnel office indicated they had no documentation indicating that she’d made a complaint of any sort against Vice President Biden back in 1993. This had led to a call for Vice President Biden to allow the University of Delaware, which is the official archive for his professional papers from his time in the US Senate; to waive the agreement that keeps that archive sealed until two years after he ceases to be a public figure so that investigative journalists can search for Ms. Reade’s complaint in those archived documents. This is being done under a call for transparency from people who supported candidates who were the least transparent candidates in 2016 and again in 2020. That small inconsistency aside, there are two major problems here. The first is that these types of complaints would not have been forwarded to the person alleged to have committed the harassment or assault. They would have been kept with the Senate personnel office to protect Ms. Reade as the person making the allegation while any investigation was undertaken. So there will not be anything in Vice President Biden’s senatorial archive to find. And this leads to the second problem, which we can see in this screen grab of a now deleted tweet from Katie Halper from this morning:
Notice the goalpost moving. Because the archive is currently still being curated and won’t be complete until 2021 and because this type of document is highly unlikely to be there, even if Vice President Biden were to allow a search of the archive, when nothing is found it will be proof of a conspiracy to protect Vice President Biden and to claim that Ms. Reade’s allegations don’t hold up. Does anyone doubt for a minute that if there was anything on file at the Senate personnel office that would harm Vice President Biden’s electoral chances against the President, that Senator McConnell would not have ensured it had been leaked to the news media already?
This is the same type of bad faith argument that is still being made that somehow the Democratic National Committee, which DOES NOT control how each state runs its primaries or caucuses, and which, to be honest, couldn’t organize a one car funeral if you spotted the DNC the hearse, the driver, the deceased, the mourners, the pallbearers, the eulogist, and the grave diggers, has somehow been manipulating things to ensure that Vice President Biden would become the nominee, including forcing Senator Sanders to endorse him. These are the same people who promote the idea that the Democratic establishment, comprised of neo-liberal elites, somehow fixed all the primaries Vice President Biden won; rather than the reality of significant African American support and turnout. The point of these bad faith arguments are to both abuse the process by lying about what it actually is/how things actually work and to get these lies picked up by others who don’t actually understand how American politics – from campaigns to governing/governance – works and therefore believe these conspiracy theories.
This goalpost moving is also tied to adjustments in those supporting Ms. Reade’s allegation. Just as Katie Halper, who did the big interview with Ms. Reade in March that really got traction for the allegations against Vice President Biden, is now deleting tweets that give away her game, so too do deleted tweets by Nathan J Robinson, who is the Editor of Current Affairs, a major supporter of Senator Sanders, and Briahna Joy Gray’s boss when the latter isn’t working as Senator Sanders’ campaign spokeswoman:
I’m not surprised that Robinson deleted these tweets given that he’s revealed he helped Ms. Reade’s brother adjust his recollection corroborating her allegations. Here too we have an attempt, seemingly successful, to manipulate the reporting process about what Ms. Reade’s brother was actually told in 1993.
One final example: Ms. Reade’s formal complaint filed with the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department. The DC Metropolitan Police Department has moved the case to inactive status and closed their investigation after a little more than two weeks. This has been taken by Ms. Reade’s supporters that the DC police are trying to cover up for Vice President Biden. Which followed on them pointing to her filing the formal complaint as evidence that her allegation against Vice President Biden meant that the assault actually happened in 1993. The reality is much simpler, Ms. Reade refused to name Vice President Biden in her complaint. By not doing so, the Metropolitan Police had little choice but to quickly complete their process and inactivate the investigation. But filing the formal complaint was itself an attempt to abuse the process. Filing the complaint was never intended to achieve some form of justice after all these years, but to abuse the process to harm Vice President Biden’s electoral chances. Filing a false police report is itself a crime. By not naming Vice President Biden in her complaint, Ms. Reade cannot be accused of, nor charged with filing a false police report against him if it turns out she is making the allegation up because he is not actually named in the report. The report was a means to and end, but that end wasn’t for Ms. Reade to get justice, it was to get all the major newspapers and the broadcast and cable networks to report that a formal criminal complaint alleging sexual assault and rape had been filed against Vice President Biden. The reality is that such a complaint was not filed against Vice President Biden. It was filed against “Subject-2”.
Regardless of what happened between Vice President Biden and Ms. Reade in 1993, and, to be honest, there is almost no way for anyone to actually ever be sure what, if anything, happened other than Vice President Biden and Ms. Reade, the purposes of the allegation, how that allegation has been brought to light, and how those pushing the allegation the hardest indicates that the objective is not justice for Tara Reade. Rather, the objective is to abuse calls for transparency, abuse law enforcement process, manipulate the process of political and campaign reporters, and manipulate partisans who do not really understand how any of these processes work to dirty up Vice President Biden. Either to try to get him removed as the Democratic nominee or, should that fail, to ensure that his negatives are driven up among key constituencies so that it is possible for the President to once again lose the popular vote while eking out a narrow reelection victory through the Electoral College.
From beginning to end, this is an influence operation similar to the Uranium-1 allegations, the other allegations from the garbage faux investigative book Clinton Cash, allegations that there were nefarious promises to wealthy malefactors in Secretary Clinton’s speech transcripts, and allegations about her emails from 2016. This influence operation relies on abusing calls for transparency and actual transparency to allow for fishing expeditions to find that one thing that would prove the allegations. And when that one thing is never found, because it never existed to begin with, the absence of evidence will be promoted as proof of both a coverup and a conspiracy to coverup. Ms. Reade’s allegation does not appear to be a search for justice long overdue. Rather it has been weaponized for another purpose: to damage Vice President Biden’s electoral chances. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about influence operations for my professional work, what I would really like to know is who is really driving it and who is really funding it.